Although many of us have gotten to take a break from stressful commutes (I do not miss traffic) or anxiety-inducing presentations (at least we can wear pajama pants if we do have to present over Zoom!), working from home brings up a whole new set of stressors that can hurt your mood, focus, and productivity. Between internet problems, feeling lonely, and how easy it is to forget the time and work late into the night, working from home is not as relaxing as our work-from-home uniforms make it seem. Prioritizing self-care is especially important during such a scary time, so here are 11 ways to unwind and destress during your workday:
1. Take a workout break
If you’re feeling stressed, stuck, or frustrated, consider taking a break from work and working your body instead. Getting your body moving will not only help you destress in the moment but will boost your energy throughout the rest of the day. Whether it’s a quick yoga flow or 45 minutes of HIIT, a mood-boosting workout should be your go-to energizer on days where you’re feeling drained or stressed (forget coffee).
2. Give yourself a cut-off time (and then stick to it)
The biggest challenge of working from home? There’s no closing time at the office and no 6pm train you have to catch. Especially when you feel like there’s always something you can be doing, it’s easy to work past normal hours and continue working through the rest of your evening. The problem with working all day and night means no work-life balance, downtime, or chance to destress. No matter what you have going on, establish “closing time” for your workday (like 5pm) and then make sure you’re wrapping up and getting ready to stop working when the cut-off time rolls around.
3. Listen to a podcast or mood-boosting music
To change your stress levels, change the mood of your environment. The easiest way to change the mood? Put on mood-boosting music. Playing background music while you work helps you enjoy your time, rather than just suffering through your workday. Unless it affects your focus and serves as a distraction (that can make you even more stressed), also consider listening to a podcast you love while you work to make the time go by faster and distract you from overthinking work situations that might be making you feel extra stressed. You can also listen to a podcast or music for a welcome distraction on your lunch break as an alternative to mindlessly staring at the TV.
4. Call your work wife to catch-up
Socialization is probably one of the things you’re missing the most. Not only can working in isolation feel lonely, but you can also feel burnt out when you’re not laughing with coworkers or brainstorming projects in a group setting. To keep up the much-needed socialization and team camaraderie as much as possible, give your work wife a call to catch up or start a Slack channel with the coworkers you’re used to bonding with in the office. If you work for yourself, schedule a call with a colleague in your industry to see how they’re managing during this time. Not only will you feel less stressed, but a social setting can help you brainstorm by offering alternative perspectives.
5. Get outside
If you have the opportunity to do some work outside, take advantage of it. Working outside will not only give you a (much-needed!) change of scenery, but it can help boost creativity and give you more energy. Try taking your laptop out on the balcony or patio, or making conference calls and phone meetings while walking around the block. Even if you can’t do work outside, make the outdoors a part of your day, whether it’s doing your workout at a nearby park or eating your lunch outside (just don’t forget SPF!).
6. Create a post-work ritual
There’s a reason children need to have a bedtime ritual before falling asleep: routine tells the body what to do. Even if we’re too old for bedtime stories, setting up a ritual can make a huge difference in our day. If you’re used to going to the office, your commute home might have been enough ritual to separate work from the evening, but without the usual commute, make your own ritual to turn your “work brain” off and get into relaxation mode. Try changing clothes (even if you’re changing from one set of pajamas into another), working out, or even taking a warm shower or bath to transition out of work mode and into relaxation mode.
7. Communicate your needs with your boss or team
It’s time we stop thinking that we need to work to the point of burnout to impress our bosses. Instead, prioritize self-care in order to perform better at your job. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, even if it isn’t a normal benefit (like more flexible work hours since you don’t have childcare right now, or a weekly meeting if you need more support). Remember that you’re not just working from home, you’re at home during a crisis and trying to work. Let your coworkers or boss know if you need some assistance on a project or are feeling overwhelmed and need to take a few hours off.
8. Perfect your work environment
Your home should feel like a retreat away from the stressors of the world, but when you work from home, you’re quite literally welcoming outside stressors into your home. To help separate a productive work environment from a relaxing oasis, set up a designated work zone that’s reserved just for work (like an armchair in the living room or a desk in your bedroom). If you work in the spaces you use for relaxation (like your couch or bed), the mind can start associating those spaces with stress instead of relaxation.
To be your most focused and productive, make sure the dishes are washed and laundry is put away before starting work, and keep your work space as organized as possible. When your work day ends, light a candle, put your laptop out of sight, and organize any papers or clutter that might have piled up during your busy day, to transform your space into a work-free relaxation zone.
9. Don’t meal prep
For once, we’re suggesting to not prep your meals ahead of time if you need more opportunities to destress during the workday. Resist the urge to grab an already-made lunch or Postmates a salad and eat in front of your laptop while continuing to work. Instead, take a real lunch break by spending the time to cook a nourishing meal. Chopping veggies or recreating a recipe can act as a form of meditation to get your mind off of work and give yourself a break. Even if you don’t like cooking, taking 10 minutes to boil pasta or heat up a veggie burger will give you ten extra minutes of work-free meditation time.
10. Turn off technology
We’re all addicted to technology as it is, but take away in-studio yoga classes and after-work drinks with friends, and we’re quite literally staring at a screen 24/7. Even our exercising and socializing is now done over Youtube videos or Zoom, not to mention the amount of time our eyes are spent glued to shows we just need to binge (curse you, Netflix!). Whether it’s for some decompression after work or for 30 minutes before bed, have some tech-free time to read a book, chat with your roommate, or do something creative (like drawing or scrapbooking).
11. Have a work-free morning routine
When you work from home, it’s easy to let work take up all of your time. Remind yourself that work is only a part of your life, not your entire life, by stopping yourself from checking email, Slack, or missed calls, first thing in the morning. Even a harmless scroll to see what you’ve missed while you were sleeping means you’re going from 0 to 100 right away (no wonder you’re stressed!).
Instead, ease into your day. Buy an old-school alarm clock, so you’re not tempted to check your phone when you turn off the alarm (or better yet, go to bed early enough, so you wake up naturally). Meditate, make yourself breakfast, listen to a podcast, write morning pages, or do any calming activities. You’ll feel much calmer throughout your entire day, guaranteed.